Knights best West Marshall again
CARROLL – West Marshall tailback Duncan Ferch came into Monday’s second-round playoff game with nearly 1,100 more rushing yards than Carroll Kuemper Catholic tailback Chase Rupiper.
But it was the 5-foot-9, 145-pound Rupiper who walked off Carroll Athletic Field with the advantage as the top-ranked Knights won the battle in the trenches, Rupiper scampered for 179 yards and two scores and Kuemper Catholic advanced to the Class 2A quarterfinals with a 38-14 win over the No. 8 Trojans.
“We just got whipped up front all night long,” said West Marshall coach Ken Winkler. “If you can’t win the battles up front, then you’ll get beat. That was the story of the game.”
It was the second straight season the Knights eliminated West Marshall (9-2) from the playoff picture. Kuemper (11-0) won last year’s quarterfinal match 22-13. The Knights will try for another trip to the state semifinals when they host Gilbert on Friday night. Kuemper lost to Spirit Lake, 17-10, in the 2012 2A semifinals.
“We thought size-wise that we could potentially win the battle up front,” said Kuemper Catholic coach Chad Klein. “I know they were missing some guys up there and that may have made a difference here and there. That’s part of football once in a while. We were just at the right end of that.”
Kuemper had gotten 2,299 passing yards in the first 10 games from Cole Neary. And even though the senior tossed for another 145 through the air against West Marshall, it was the Knights’ ground game that ultimately did in the Trojan defense.
The Knights gained 238 rushing yards in all and outgained the West Marshall offense 383-155 in the win. The Trojans – who got 135 yards from all-state tailback Duncan Ferch, threw for just two yards in the loss. They also turned it over three times and had just nine first downs.
“They played more physical up front than we did, and we couldn’t handle it,” Winkler said. “They are a good football team. The turnovers allowed it to get out of hand, but that wasn’t a key in the game.”
The Knights took an early lead with a 13-play, 85-yard drive on their first possession of the game. Neary capped off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
The Trojans came right back with a four-play, 75 yard drive. Ferch gained all but two of those yards and finished off the scoring drive with a 54-yard run around the left end.
Kuemper Catholic came right back with an 11-play, 69-yard drive to regain the lead. Josh Irlbeck caught four passes on the drive for the Knights but none were bigger than his 21-yard reception from Alex Drees on a fake punt. Rupiper’s 20-yard catch put the Knights into the red zone and Cooper Kanne ended the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
The Knights added a 32-yard field goal from Taylor Niehaus in the second quarter to lead 17-7 at the break.
The Trojans got a big boost of momentum on the opening kickoff of the second half. Senior Devin Chesler received the ball at the 30, ran into a host of Knights about 10 yards downfield and then emerged from the pile and went the distance to trim West Marshall’s deficit to 17-14.
That margin would stick after three quarters but the Knights scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Rupiper scored the first two on runs of 36 and 2 yards and then Neary finalized the win with back-to-back completions to Drees that covered 40 yards – the last one being a 10-yard touchdown.
“We knew all week long that they were going to try to take away the pass,” Rupiper said. “I am kind of shifty. I like to hide behind those linemen and wait for something to open up. They did a great job tonight. They opened up holes for me and I found the next level.”
The final two scoring drives came directly off West Marshall miscues. A ball that Ferch tried to pitch to Chesler on an option hit the grass and Sam Brincks returned the ball to the Trojan 4. Rupiper needed just two plays to reach paydirt.
“We put a few new plays in,” Klein said. “We wanted to try to find some things we could exploit. It was stuff we haven’t done all season. We wanted to use Chase more effectively. They double teamed our best receiver and needed to go somewhere else with the ball. It worked out for us.”
The final touchdown drive for the home team covered 48 yards in four plays as Kanne gained 22 on a run and Neary found Drees, his leading receiver coming in, twice for 40 yards.
West Marshall won its first eight games with ease – its closest result was a 21-point victory over North Polk – but then battled through some injuries and struggled in the final contests.
The Trojans lost their first district game in 29 tries when they lost to Gilbert 40-14 in the final week of the regular season. They trailed Clarinda 19-14 at halftime in the opening round of the playoffs before rallying with a big second half.
Quarterback Matt Van Metre did not play in either playoff game after suffering an injury against Gilbert. That forced the Trojans to once again use Ferch as a Wildcat quarterback. He threw it just three times and had just four runs over 10-plus yards in the loss.
Nick Juel and Elijah Streeter also went down with injuries against the Knights and key penalties stalled otherwise promising drives Monday.
“Our defense tonight was unbelievable,” said Rupiper. “We made the adjustments on Ferch. We had multiple guys on him and we were able to get to him before he got going a lot of times.”
Since its 7-6 win over cross-town rival Carroll in the season opener, Carroll Kuemper has outscored its opponents 491-72. That run includes four shutouts and the closest margin of victory came in a 52-24 win over Clarinda, which lost to West Marshall in round one of the playoffs. Ferch ended the season with 2,005 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. The Trojan senior finished with 2,264 yards and 33 scores in 2012. Duncan Ferch is the last of three Ferches that left their mark on the Trojan program. Oldest brother Drake Ferch ranks in the top 20 all-time in career rushing yards with 5,316, while Dalton Ferch tallied 4,384 in his career. Duncan’s 2,264 yards in 2012 broke the school’s single season record, which was previously held by Dalton.